Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Paradise: Love": first film in an intriguing trilogy by Austrian director, a hit at the festivals, but problematic

Paradise: Love” (“Paradies: Liebt”) is the first of three parallel films by Austrian director Ulrich Seidl.  Each film tells the story of what three different women in family do one summer. 
This film may be the most explicit and disturbing of the three. 
As the two-hour film opens, Teresa (Margarethe Tiesel) seems like a strict mom for her teenage daughter, who can’t have candy or cell phones in her room back in an Austrian city.

But then Teresa goes to Kenya on holiday, to the little known east coast.  She meets a wide range of young black men (let’s hope they are really of legal age) who meet, shall we say, her needs.  Some of these are pragmatic indulgences, from men who don’t ask for money for themselves but who have families (not of their own progeny, but younger siblings and parents) to take care of.  

 One needs money for medical treatment for a family member.  A few of the scenes are explicit, but seem to build more on curiosity than actual sex. Teresa also talks about what she “has” and is “losing”, to other women, in a wa that reminds me of parallel male concerns.

I do think this is a film about the poor serving the rich (potential class warfare later), but I didn’t really see it as sex tourism.  But I have to agree with Ashton Kutcher: “Real men don’t buy girls” (or boys, for that matter). 

The film trio showed at Filmfest DC, and this first film showed at Cannes and various other festivals.  (I think it also showed in Baltimore)  Audience reaction (most people who want to see it are female) is reported as enthusiastic.  I was left rather cold by it.    
I knew a gay male couple who served covertly (without being out) on a church mission in Kenya, and they said that conditions were rather oppressive, but still not as bad as Uganda.  The horrible anti-gay initiatives in Uganda (and now Russia) would make for a good documentary film.  It is rather difficult and challenging to be of service (or to be employed on infrastructure projects) deep in the developing world, so the behavior of Teresa in the movie is a bit off-putting, to me at least.  

This film will be available on DVD from Strand  (site ) on Aug. 6, and I viewed a private advance copy 

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